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You Can't Teach Talent
By Joseph Steine
Are people born with musical talent or is it something that anyone can learn? I guess another way of wording this question is, Are some people born with an ear for music, which they use to develop exceptional talent or can anybody develop an ear for music? It's a very important question and I'm going to make it practical for you. But first, let me say, I am inclined to believe the former. I think that good musicians or rappers are born with an ear for music and it can't be taught.
Joseph Steine has been writing about music and trends in the music industry for about 3 years. He believes that music and the music industry ...
However, I also think it's despicable to tell somebody that they shouldn't pursue their dreams because they were born with a biological limitation like not having an ear for music. But at the same time, I've always believed that one of the worst pieces of advice you can give a kid is to tell him that he can be anything he wants to be.
Some of you are already angry with me because you've been taught that in this culture you're never supposed to doubt that anybody can be anything they want to be as long as they set their mind to it. This is the land of the free, right? So why am I saying that a kid can't be anything he wants to be? Because he can't, pure and simple.
I've always wanted to be a professional basketball player, but that ain't gonna happen because I have a 2 inch vertical. I'm just not going to be a professional basketball player no matter how hard I try. Instead, people should be told that you can be anything you want to be...as long as you have an inclination for it. Inclination doesn't mean insane talent. It just means you have potential. You see, the word inclination is very important because you can try your heart out to be something, but if you don't have an inclination for it, you're going to get your ass kicked by all the people who do.
Here's a practical example of what I'm talking about. I know this guy who's been dying to be a star musician since he was a kid. He's a classically trained musician. He tells me that each night before he falls asleep, he visualizes himself walking onto a stage, embraced by thousands of screaming fans. Then he falls asleep and the next morning wakes up to reality. It's great that he's a dreamer and all because visualization is one of the most important factors to success.
But this guy's got one big problem. He has no ear for music. He doesn't know how to put an original song together. His writing is bad, bad, bad. His timing is way off and most importantly, he just can't create a decent melody that anyone would pay to listen to.
When it comes to making good music, he's a shipwreck. But there is one area where I've noticed he excels and that's in playing the guitar. And I've spoken with him several times about focusing on developing his guitar playing skills so that he can think about lending his talent to a band somewhere. "You can make a living off of it," I keep telling him. But he doesn't want to hear it. He wants to be a rock star.
I'm reluctant to tell him to forget about being a rock star because I don't want to bust the guy's balls, but eventually, reality will catch up to him. He's been at it for 7 years, with no progress. He's wasted 7 years of his life that could have been committed to developing his guitar skills.
And that's what I mean when I say everyone can't be what they want to be. But just because you can't be R Kelly or John Mayer doesn't mean you can't have some success in the field of music. You just have to understand your strengths and weaknesses and work on your strengths. But in my numerous observations of people in music, denial of realities is a big problem. Music seems to have become the new fallback career-especially in hip hop-for people who don't know what they want to do with their lives; the people stranded on the tarmac after the plane's already taken off.
The irony in all of this is that music is one of the most difficult fields to be successful in. And it's sad because there are so many people who get into music who don't really think carefully about what they want and how they're going to get it. I think that if more people focused on their strengths in music, there would be far fewer broken dreams.
My suggestion for people who contemplate getting into music is to ask themselves the following three crucial questions. If you can't honestly answer these three questions, you have no business doing what you're doing.
The first question is, "What do I want?" Your answer to this should be an actual visualization of where you see yourself in two, four or six years. Be very specific too. None of this, "I just want to be successful and happy" crap. Think about what you'll be doing, where you'll be doing it and with whom you'll be doing it.
The second question is, "What am I good at?" Don't just say you're good at making music because you may be lying to yourself and it's a lie that could cost you precious time. For some reason, too many people I've met think that life's a rehearsal. It ain't. To help you answer this second question, get the opinions of people who don't care about you. Not your friends, they're always the least honest people when it comes to assessing your abilities. Once you've figured that out, then find people who complement the skills you lack and who can help you get to where you want to be.
The third question is, "Am I prepared to persist for years to get what I want no matter what?" Even if your partners desert you. Even if a hurricane strikes and you lose everything you have. Even if all of planet Earth gets struck by the bubonic plague.
Many people think that the important things are things like how well you know the MPC 3000 and other trivial things. But they really aren't, you see. The important questions relate to what you're made of on the inside and how well you know yourself. Believe me, life is too damn short not to know who you are.
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